If you know me, you know I am not a runner, by any stretch of the imagination. Hand me the weights instead, please. Don’t ask me to run. However, its funny how when you can actually no longer do something, there’s some sort of yearning for it. I guess I’ll be a little more blunt about how MS affects me physically today. I look completely healthy, I can do A LOT of things, and I feel pretty normal most of the time…..unless I attempt to walk consistently at a moderate pace for more than a couple minutes, much less run, do jumping jacks, or walk the neighborhood with the kids – my favorite. My doctor told me I could try a medicine that may potentially help with all that, making my central nervous system send the right signals – but it made me a lot worse, so we quit that. There was this little glimmer of hope for easily going hiking and rock climbing in Zion for our anniversary trip, but I know better to place hope in medicine by now. I hope you don’t hear me complaining, but longing – and seeing that sometimes my longing for physical healing is stronger than my longing for Jesus. Maybe you can relate?
But He’s too good for that.
I hope that Isaiah 40:31 will be physically true for me, “but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” And yet, as I read before that I see more context: “To whom will you compare me, that I should be like him? Says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host my number, calling them by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing…Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. HE does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” (Isaiah 40:25-28). There’s the power. There’s the Hope. HE doesn’t faint or grow weary. It’s okay for me to physically feel pins and needles in my feet that might go numb making me fall, or have legs that feel full of lead, because HE doesn’t. I hope your story picks up somewhere in my words here and that this isn’t just for me (thanks Sarah over at An Inner Disposition for the phrase!). Somewhere in this, you get it too. I get the joy – the joy – of longing for heaven more – and maybe truly for the first time ever – because my flesh is fading away.
Russ Ramsey says: “Unmet desires in this life are intended to arouse a hunger for the next. Physical limitations are felt as an ache for a perfected body. Coming face to face with my mortality has awakened my appetite for eternity.” (Struck)
Tim Keller talks about our joy being enhanced by our suffering – suffering being the servant of our joy and calls us to think about heaven until it pulverizes our discouragement (found in Be Still, My Soul).
I don’t claim to have the market on trials, by any stretch of the imagination. This is your story too. I have been overwhelmed with the seemingly inordinate amount of people for a small church plant that are walking through really hard things right now. Things, that because these are my friends, or I’m the pastor’s wife, I am privy to – I get the honor of the work of “burden bearing”. Mostly, this is praying. I’m coming to think of it like the paralytic’s friends who literally tear a hole in the top of the house and lower their friend to Jesus. Many (of you!) have done that for me, and I’ve learned that there is something sacred about that work. The sacred work of begging God to heal, to give peace, to provide, and yet knowing we don’t have to beg – He hears our cry and answers us because He delights in us (Psalm 18)! I have the sacred privilege of reminding my friends, and myself, that even lament is worship. I’d venture to say it is especially worship. Lamenting while trusting, imperfectly even, does a powerful work in us.
May He be sufficient for you today. Just as He is sufficient for me – even as I struggle to write that phrase, because if I’m being honest I need to tell you I daily wrestle to believe that He is sufficient.
Here’s a powerful thought from Elizabeth Elliot: “He is not all we would as for (if we were honest), but it is precisely when we do not have what we would ask for, and only then, that we can clearly perceive His all-sufficiency.” (Keep A Quiet Heart)
I’ll leave you, and me, with these questions: How is Jesus meeting you in your longing?
Where is He pursuing your heart in your longing for other things?
Where is He inviting you to trust Him more?
Last week was a week where I needed LOTS of reminders to abide in Jesus. I felt the earth quake around me, specifically regarding parenting, and my roots felt like they might not hold the tree through the mighty quake. Thankfully, God’s hold on me is far stronger than my hold on Him, because if it had depended on me – my effort or my righteousness – I would have toppled over with a thunderous crash. Between the boy that needed stitches on his head, Ryan being out of town, a child needing to be picked up early from camp due to tremendous misbehavior on my way to which, I was pulled over by a police officer informing me that the windows of my MINI-VAN are tinted too dark, down to the regular mishaps and day to day challenges of lots of socks being throw into the toilet by the little ones, being yelled at by my children, yelling in return, and on and on it goes…not to mention the lack of a quiet heart…So, by Tuesday afternoon, things were looking rough. God, as He faithfully does, in the midst reminded me of my utter dependence upon and need for Him. As Ryan commonly says, “We were never meant to wean ourselves off of our need for Jesus. The longer we walk with Jesus, the more we realize we need to lean into Him.”
I think one of the hardest and most important things we can do as parents is to ABIDE in Christ. Abiding involves trusting God is working when we don’t see it; abiding is confessing my sin and seeking forgiveness when I’d rather not; abiding is admitting my need and weakness and lack of control; abiding is knowing and resting in the ONE who holds me and holds my kids in the palm of His almighty hand.
Abiding is work. I dare say it is the work. We can’t produce the fruit of the spirit in ourselves or in our kids. But, we can remain in HIM, the One who can. It is work to abide in quietness of heart when the well-thought-out plans get messed up. It is work to abide and ask the Lord to show me my own sin even when my child’s seems more glaring and in need of correction. Abiding is a good work . Cupping those small faces with my hands and responding in peace and love and joy knowing my response is pointing them to or from a loving Savior who can handle their every need. And, THEY are watching my abiding. My kids, my husband, my friends, my neighbors. Not only the people I can see, but the angels and the demons. What beauty – to glorify God in my abiding in Him – even when I think no one else sees it. The angels and demons look on in wonder when we choose to glorify God in our response of abiding. Angels cheering us on and demons maddened as we plunder the gates of hell with our abiding in Christ in our lives and parenting. And not that we could ever, hear me, ever do it on our own. That ‘being kept’ is by the Lord.
In the midst of the storm of last week, I was held. God gave me the gifts abiding in: my dependence on Him, the need for community and friends, mourning over and repenting of my own sin even when it seemed like my children’s sin was more glaring, and the knowledge and comfort that He was working in my waiting.
I love this thought from Elizabeth Elliot, “Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands. Nothing touches me without my Father’s permission…Whatever He allows to happen becomes, for me, His will at the moment.” (Keep a Quiet Heart) She bases this reflection on John 14:27 where Jesus reminds us, “Peace I leave with you; I do not give as the world gives.”
The things I tend to see as interruptions are actually God’s will for me at that moment. When I do the hard work of preaching to myself instead of listening to myself, I abide in the truth and am set free to walk in peace. Abiding opens my eyes to the gifts He has for me as He does the painful and beautiful work of making all things new – in me and in the little people around me!
Towards the end of December, as I thought on the new year and the mystery therein, the Lord graciously led me to mine out the many diamonds of Isaiah 55, including: “and you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace and the mountains and hills before you shall burst forth into singing and the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” I’m struck by the word of the Lord enabling me to go out in joy and peace, into the mystery, but also floored by the fact that the mountain isn’t moved. Think about that. The Lord CAN throw the mountain into the midst of the sea – absolutely – that’s miraculous DELIVERING grace! But, in this passage, it’s still there.
Tall. Sturdy. Unmoving.
And yet, it’s breaking forth into singing! How often do I miss this? The beauty of the new road I’m on and the mountain and hills around me? It’s not simply a detour I need to rush and pray to “get through”, but it is the new road – a new road filled with SUSTAINING grace. Not an interruption, but an opportunity – really, an invitation. An invitation to admit dependance, an invitation for great courage and learning new things, an invitation to turn mourning into dancing. Henri Nouwen says: “As we dance and walk forwards, grace provides the ground on which the steps fall. Prayer puts us in touch with the God of the Dance. We look beyond our experience of sadness or loss by learning to receive an all-embracing love, a love that meets us in everyday moments. And so, we wait patiently, if the situation requires it, watching for gifts to come where we are. ” (Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, pg 14-15).
And this new road, on the mountain, is full of good and beauty and gifts waiting to be discovered, mined out, and cherished. Oh, how I long to remember this daily! Whether it’s a mountain of laundry, or what seems like a mountain of an unending season of seemingly fruitless discipline for my kids, or a mountain of questions about the future I simply cannot answer. The Lord’s sustaining grace is all around. Isaiah goes on to say: “instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Being a lover of trees, I did a quick Google search on these trees and found that the Mediterranean cypress is known for longevity, ability to withstand storms, and pointing straight up to heaven.
That the myrtle that grows most commonly in the Mediterranean areas grows there because it requires a long, hot summer to produce its flowers.
The Lord, as He commonly does, dropped this in my lap on December 29 as I looked across the abyss into a a new year. Wow. What beauty and power in those words and imagery – in the entirety of Isaiah 55 as the Lord invites all who are thirsty, broken, and poor, to come and be satisfied. What hope! What seems like a treacherous mountain ahead has gifts waiting to be discovered. What seems like an unending long hot season of trial or wondering is producing flowers! So, walking in peace, being led forth in joy walking straight into the mystery. We savor Christ in the mystery, on the new road winding towards the mountain, because HE has been faithful in the past and HE will be faithful in the future. Where is He inviting me, where is He inviting you, to see the gifts within the mountains?
Ahh, family worship. This photo is beautiful right? Looks perfect. No chaos. Children singing and worshipping the Lord. Parents full of joy. Well, not exactly…not at all, really. In the background, right behind that camera, the one who is taking the photo (me) is annoyed and honestly kinda mad. I take the photo anyways because I know God is doing something sweet, even if they are actually fighting over who gets to touch the guitar. There is immense chaos in my heart. A longing for a different stage and age. A mom full of expectations she didn’t first run by God and isn’t trusting Him with when those fleshly expectations go unmet. Eek. What conviction. Even my spiritual hopes for my kids can end up being covered by my own fleshly and sinful desires. And yet, I love this photo because it reminds me of my own need to repent. I love it because I think Jesus loves it – He loves His covenant children in the age and stage that they are in. And, He also loves their parents, as imperfect as we are, He leads us in repentance and hope as we feebly attempt to lead our kids. Yep – Ryan and I are church planters and pastor/pastor’s wife and even our attempts are feeble!
How to “implement” family bible time, or whatever you want to call it, with your crazy crew of kids can be a daunting challenge that is easily given up on for fear of “doing it wrong”, feeling inadequate, lack of participation from the little people, or likely – simply the pure chaos that can make even the “strongest” parents utter foul words during “bible time”. Amen?
So, as I encourage myself, I encourage you to embrace the chaos – whatever that looks like in your house. When it comes to implementing a family worship time, start with where you are and don’t expect it to look how you think its “supposed” to look. God is way bigger than that! His plans for your kids – His kids – are greater than yours and He will work through that one bible verse, silly song, bible story, and prayers you pray with and over your kids. My encouragement is this: just start somewhere.
Here’s just a few ideas – but I encourage you not to read this as a “to-do” list that conjures up feelings guilt, but read it as an encouragement to be simple and start “small” because God does a lot with small things…remember the little boy’s meager lunch that fed at least 5,000 in Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9? Bring Him what you have and watch what He does with it!
~Grab a great children’s bible (Jesus Storybook Bible is one of my favorites!) and start reading together
~say the Westminster Shorter Catechism for young children questions and answers around the dinner table, or the New City Catechism (there’s an app!) to teach them foundations of God, sin, and redemption
~re-read the story together your kids learned at church
~work on memorizing a hymn together (there is SO much great depth in hymns that have stood the test of time),
~make a family prayer journal where you watch how God answers prayers you pray together
~pick a bible verse to memorize together
This list isn’t exhaustive and you probably have way more creative ideas than this. I’m a pretty simple momma though, so we keep it real, simple, and to the point – hopefully pointing them to Jesus over and over again.
Whatever you do, keep at it. Know that the Lord is doing something, however imperfect or messy it feels. He’s working in you and in them in far greater ways than you can imagine! Embrace the chaos. Embrace the mystery. But most of all, embrace Jesus together.
Here’s just a few good recommendations if you’re looking: Jesus Storybook Bible, The Action Bible, The Following Jesus Bible ( for kids a little older), The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook or The Big Picture Story Bible (for younger ones). Or, for books to go alongside your bible reading The Ology is GREAT and Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing is beautiful as well!
This abiding work is hard stuff, huh? Abiding and seeking forgiveness when I’d rather not. Abiding and trusting deeply when the MRI shows even more new lesions and it appears the medicine is not working and we need to switch. Abiding in quietness of heart when the well-thought-out plans get messed up. Abiding in His rest and presence when the new box of cheerio’s are split, a poopy diaper got removed by a toddler, and another is running hands out towards it, and I’m being yelled at like I’m the terrorist in this situation! Abiding. Cupping those small faces with my hands and responding in peace and love and joy knowing my response is pointing them to or from a loving Savior who can handle their every need. And, THEY are watching my abiding. My kids, my husband, my friends, my neighbors. Not only the people I can see, but the angels and the demons. Wow. To glorify God in my abiding in Him – even when I think no one else sees it. The angels and demons look on in wonder when we choose to glorify God in our response of abiding. Angels cheering us on and demons maddened as we plunder the gates of hell with our abiding in Christ.
And not that we could ever, hear me, ever do it on our own. That ‘being kept’ is by the Lord. Andrew Murray says it well: “He says ‘Abide IN ME’. He offers Himself, the Keeper of Israel that slumbers not nor sleeps, with all His power and love, as the living home of the soul, where the mighty influences of His grace will be stronger to keep than all their feebleness to lead astray….that word abide is even so the band with which He holds you fast and binds you to Himself. Let the soul take time to listen to the voice of Jesus. ‘In me’, he says, ‘is thy place – in my almighty arms.” (Andrew Murray, Abide in Me)
I can’t give you a check list to abiding. That’s why it’s hard. But you’ll know it. And it’s worth it. So, stay. Do the hard work of staying, remaining, abiding. He will produce the fruit. He will grow the roots deep and unshakable in the midst of the earth-quaking storms of unforeseen diagnosis’, depression, slandering words, broken relationships, and yes, even poop on the floor.